(Pocket-lint) - "It's too expensive". "It's unnecessary". "It's too big". "It doesn't have all the features of a watch a quarter of the price".
The arguments against the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 are many and varied. What we see, however, is a fashion-forward and quite excellent smartwatch with a genuine twist: modularity of body, lugs and strap choices. It's desirable, a status symbol, and for many perhaps the only kind of decoration that will always be worn.
The Modular 45 is unashamedly plush, reflecting the luxury brand to which it belongs. That's something that some people will never understand or accept, in the same way that some would argue buying an Audi isn't worth the money over buying a Skoda. Brands have value and when the world of tech meets the world of fashion, it ruffles feathers - in both good and bad ways.
Sure, the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 is big, it's expensive and, yes, there are cheaper smartwatches that do more. But this is hands down the most attractive Android Wear watch on the market right now.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review: Design brilliance
- Modular design: choose body, lugs and strap
- Premium metal body and metal backplate
- 45mm diameter, 13.5mm thick
- Waterproof to 50m
The second iteration of Tag Heuer's Connected smartwatch brings with it a twist, but offers much the same visual appeal as the original model. We loved the chunky and sporty looks of the Connected and the Modular 45 repeats that Carrera-apeing design.
Unlike many of the other Android Wear watches, it's in design that Tag really makes a statement. There isn't a sense of "that'll do" or compromise about it, it feels as though it has been designed and considered by a watch maker - which is perhaps no surprise, seeing as it has been. Everything from the bodywork to the strap is superior to those cheaper rivals. That's the definition of luxury: being better is what it's all about.
While the Modular 45 doesn't have all the technical abilities that some other smartwatches offer, it's the design that makes this watch. It wears well, it looks good and it feels good. It's a watch you want to wear and a watch you want to be seen in. It doesn't feel like an unnecessary gadget and there's no qualm about the choice of materials.
Sure, some might baulk at the 45mm body, but that's the same as the analogue Carrera that this watch is based on. It's not a big smartwatch, it's a big watch full stop.
Design improvements over the original Tag Heuer Connected (now called the Connected 46) include the metal backplate: this is even more substantial in the body than the slightly older model, but the big design twist is modularity, which takes this watch into a totally different league.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review: Modular marvel
- Huge number of colour combinations
- Choose your body, lugs and strap
- Easy switch modularity
If the Connected Modular 45 is a toy for kids who don't want to grow up, then its modularity is only part of the appeal.
First of all, the 45 presents you with choices. You can choose the strap which is a fairly common option. Being able to choose the lugs is something else entirely. So is having the option to choose the body materials and bezel colour.
Sure, there are some limitations, but you're not limited to silver or rose gold here: there's titanium, aluminium or gold, there are even diamond bezels. There are matte black bodies with blue bezels, a rainbow of coloured aluminium bezels on a titanium body, or, as pictured here, black ceramic bezel on titanium body and many more. The price will vary depending on what you choose.
Being able to choose the lugs is a big point of differentiation too. This is the part that connects the strap to the watch and, with the press of a button, separates from the main body. There are matte black ceramic, diamond crusted, gold or the classic satin titanium lugs.
The important take-away point is that you can buy the watch you want. If you're a gadget fan and you have plenty of cash, you can decide exactly what you want your Tag to look like. There's even the option to buy an analogue watch module, so that you can leave the smartwatch at home, and walk out wearing a mechanical chronograph instead.
There's also another consideration: this is Tag Heuer classic design and we suspect that in future there could be the option to buy a different smartwatch as technology evolves.
We've found it easy to break down our test watch into its main component pieces. Separating body, lugs and strap is simple, as is detaching the buckle from the strap. Important if you intend to have various options for different days, meetings, events, moods or whatever else suits you.
The one negative is that this modularity does present a natural failure point: there's some movement between the lugs and the body and we have no idea how the mechanism will wear over time. For us using the watch over a short period of time there's been no sign of it, but after a year, we simply can't say.
We are also left wondering whether modularisation is a big sell: will people wanted to change parts of their watch repeatedly, or is this play for differentiation only going to be used to buy a unique watch and thereafter be ignored?
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review: Hardware and specifications
- Intel Atom Z34XX, 512GB RAM, 4GB storage
- GPS, NFC, motion sensors
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Android Wear 2.0 operating system
Behind that premium design the technology doesn't throw up too many surprises, except that this is an Intel powered watch when many are Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100.
The Intel Atom Z34XX chipset sits at the heart of this watch as it did the previous model. There's 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, which you can use to store music on your phone, connecting to Bluetooth headphones, so you can have music without the need for your phone.
Our experience is that this watch is every bit as fast and powerful as other Android Wear watches we've used. It's perhaps more difficult to quantify that as we're not roaming around playing games on the watch - but it reacts to the touch and does what we ask of it without any problems.
There's Wi-Fi on board to let it connect independently to networks, something that's more pertinent in Android Wear 2.0, which now runs much more independently than previous software versions.
The Modular 45 has GPS, NFC (for Android Pay) and motion sensors, as well as a microphone and ambient light sensors. The GPS means it's a better device for tracking location independently, but it lacks the autonomy that comes from having its own 4G connection. There's no such thing here, meaning it's often dependent on your phone for more data, unlike something such as the LG Watch Sport.
There's no heart-rate sensor, so this Tag isn't an out-and-out sports watch. You can use a compatible Bluetooth heart-rate sensor, although we didn't test this ourselves, so we can't comment on performance or compatibility.
We don't think that the lack of a heart-rate sensor is a huge deal here: although it offers 50m waterproofing, we can't see that anyone is going to seriously choose it as a sports device. There are plenty of other options, like the Polar V800 or the Garmin Forerunner 920XT, that will happily give you a premium sports experience.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review: Display and watch faces
- 1.39-inch AMOLED display
- 400 x 400 pixels (287ppi)
- Sapphire glass
The Modular 45 hosts a 1.39-inch fully round display. There are no flat tyres here, like with the Moto legacy watches (which Fossil persists in running with). The Tag offers a 400 x 400 pixel resolution, resulting in 287ppi, which is typical of such a device. Just because it's Tag doesn't mean you'll get more resolution. However, Tag has used an AMOLED panel for rich blacks and covered it with a 2.5mm thick sapphire crystal cover for protection.
Display-wise, we think the Apple Watch S2 looks better, with deeper blacks and more vibrancy. The Apple display also looks closer to the surface, whereas the Connected Modular 45's deep glass - while great that it's sapphire crystal - looks a little deeper set into the body than we'd like. While that means it maintains some of the character of a watch display, it doesn't have that brilliance that some digital displays offer where they appear right on the surface.
There's plenty of brightness, as well as an ambient light sensor, but this Tag isn't strong in bright conditions, partly because the default watch faces are rather conservative and lack contrast. Metal-looking hands rotating over a metal-looking backgrounds don't really standout when in direct sunlight. Still, you can still read the time which is the main point - so we can't complain too much.
Watch faces have greater prominence in Android Wear 2.0 than they did in the earlier version, easily changed on the watch with a deliberate swipe across. To help you create your own design Tag gives you a few options with the Tag Heuer Studio or interactive themes.
Studio gives you a wide range of options and is best used in conjunction with the Connected app; the interactive themes version limits your options of colours, but will let you add your own complications, such as steps, appointments or battery life for example.
Interactive themes perhaps best showcases one of Android Wear's new features, but it doesn't feel fully embraced by Tag: we want a dazzling blue display with those complications, not just the choice of black or white.
Fiddle about and you can again come up with something unique and if you want more then you'll have to reach to the Play Store for a little more.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review: Android Wear 2.0 software
- Google Assistant voice control
- NFC for Android Pay
The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 is one of the first devices to land with Google's new take on watch software. It's a refreshing change, adding a range of tweaks to make things more exciting throughout. AW2.0 is more mature, it looks better and it's easier to get to the things that matter.
One of the exciting elements is that Android Wear is now better at working without a connected phone, or rather, that it's less dependent on the phone it's connected to. The Tag lacks its own 4G connection as we mentioned, but once connected to Wi-Fi, you can download apps directly to the watch, rather than via the phone. Greater independence should mean a better experience for iPhone users who want to pair Apple's device with this watch.
Adding payment support is a popular option as you will simply have to tap to pay in supported locations, while GPS means better tracking for your activities - be that walking or other sports. You'll need to opt for an app that supports that, of course, and unlike many others, Tag isn't pushing a bespoke workout app on you, so select Google Fit, Strava or download something else that suits.
Disappointingly there's no support for one of Android Wear's most interesting additions: rotational input. The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 only has one button, which is used for everything from opening the apps menu to triggering Google Assistant. We can't help feeling that more buttons, giving you another plunger to set to, say, a favourite app would have been a nice touch.
Google Assistant, however, works with the microphone, letting you dictate various commands and requests. With Assistant getting more and more connected, you can use it to control your smart home devices, put in a navigation request or to reply to messages. It works well enough, although if there's one software element that's likely to fail, it seems to be Google Assistant, and we found it sometimes slow to get going.
There's now also an on-screen keyboard so you can input text directly. It's a little fiddly, but it works well enough if you have the patience and necessity to use it.
Then there's the general crossover with things like Spotify or Netflix, giving you control on your wrist. Or navigation through Google Maps - so you can glance at your watch rather than needing to look at your phone - or through Citymapper, where you can plot the route and follow it on your wrist rather than needing your phone all the time.
Overall, it's a much better experience than Android Wear was before, but with the Tag Heuer Connected 46 also updating to Android Wear 2.0, there are only going to be a few minor differences between these two watches. That said, there's still room to make the software slicker, but that's on Google, not Tag.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review: Battery life
- 410mAh battery
- 24 hour life at a push
- Magnetic charging plate
Battery life is the bane of many mobile devices, none more so than smartwatches. The Modular 45 has a 410mAh battery, charged via a magnetic contact plate that attaches to the rear (which, in turn, needs to connect to a Micro-USB power source).
The battery life isn't substantial. It will make it through the day, but don't be fooled into thinking you'll get more life here than you do on other smartwatches. With minimal use you might get into a second day - but more often than not, you'll need to charge this Tag every night.
We've managed, in average use, to end the day with 30 per cent battery, but you typically then lose 15 per cent overnight while you're not wearing it.
Should you choose to use the Connected Modular 45 for a GPS event, too, or perhaps play some Bluetooth music, then you'll find things deplete a lot faster. That's pretty much par for course for smartwatches - so Tag Heuer is very much in the same position as everyone else.
The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 is a lovely smartwatch - the best looking you can buy today.
Its focus is firmly seated in fashion, reflecting the brand's Carrera watches with an added emphasis on personalisation. The Connected Modular 45, as its name suggests, not only offers watch face customisation, but physical customisation too - and there is a huge range of options so you can get exactly what you want... if you can afford it.
Armed with the credentials to be a wear anywhere premium smartwatch, the 45 also brings GPS and NFC to boost its digital skills, although it's not as fully-loaded as some rival devices. That fits its lofty position, but this isn't a smartwatch that sees a boost in battery or other technical skills: modularly and physical customisation is its forte, ticking every box on the spec sheet isn't.
The Connected Modular 45 is an example of what Android Wear has enabled. While the new software is better, it's still brand new and some of that is reflected in the experience of living with this watch, the most obvious being stuttery Google Assistant performance. That will get better as Google and app developers continue to refine things, so we'll give Tag the benefit of the doubt there.
What's most important is that this premium smartwatch feels like a premium smartwatch. While others will ape its style and design, there's really nothing that matches its luxury position - and the modular approach is unique. With that said, there's a closeness to the Connected 46 in terms of design and function. That older watch is now cheaper by some £300, and although it lacks some sensors, it might be all the Tag Heuer smartwatch you need.
Alternatives to consider...
Tag Heuer Connected 46
It might not be modular by design, but with Android Wear 2.0 incoming the differences between this and its follow-up aren't really that significant.
Read the full review: Tag Heuer Connected review